It’s Crabapple Time

 

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You wouldn’t know it, but today is the Autumnal equinox, the first day of fall. Though the unseasonably warm spell may make you want to head to the beach, it is actually a good time for to start taking advantage of the fruits of the season; grapes, squash and apples are all coming to maturity now, and one of the lesser-esteemed fruit trees, found almost everywhere in our urban forest  is the crabapple.

Crabapples are in the same botanical family as domesticated orchard apples, (Rosaceae) but are either wild or cultivated for their flowers rather than their fruit, sort of like the rose, which is also in the same family. Basically the rosehip is the apple of the rosebush, and crabapples and rosehips are similar in size and appearance. If the apple is under two inches in diameter it is a crabapple.

Most of us overlook the crabapple when considering fall’s bounty, figuring that most crabapple trees are nothing more than ornamental shrubbery; indeed, many flowering crab trees are planted for that purpose, but the fact is, if the tree produces fruit, that fruit can be harvested and eaten. In the case of crab apples, which at their ripest are still quite tart and somewhat astringent, they are best made into jellies, ciders and vinegars. It seems a waste to let all of this just fall to the ground, and a yard covered in fallen crabapples will attract numerous nocturnal pests not to mention wasps and flies during the day.

 

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Picking apples, crabby or not, can be a fun family activity, and baking with them or making jelly and cider is a cool way to get the most bang out of your efforts. To determine if the fruit is ripe, pick an apple and open it up; if the seeds are brown you’re good to go. If you don’t have a crabapple tree on your property, you likely know someone who does. Perhaps there’s a gnarly crab apple tree in your neighbourhood that is laden with opportunity. Furthermore, if you do have a tree but lack the desire to harvest it, you can contact Not Far From the Tree, the volunteer driven agency that has been harvesting the urban canopy since 2008.

 

Prepping for jelly

Prepping for jelly

 

Okay so let’s say you’ve picked all these apples, now what? Crabapple jelly has been thrilling North Americans since the pioneer days, and the recipe hasn’t changed much either. Crab apples are super high in pectin making the ingredient list short and sweet, emphasis on sweet; the tarter the apple the more sugar you’ll be adding. Here’s a recipe for Crabapple Jelly that should satisfy the gang; great for Thanksgiving and if you can find enough little jars they will make pretty sweet gifts too!

 

Old Fashioned Crabapple Jelly

Crabapples, Sugar, Cinnamon sticks

Wash, stem and rough chop the fruit and put it in a large pot. Just-cover with water and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the apples are soft, about half an hour. Mash them with a potato masher and let them stew for a little longer. Remove from heat and let cool a little. Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Spoon the apple mash into the colander and let it strain for at least an hour. Measure the amount of juice you get and pour it back into your pot. For every cup of juice you get add ¾ cup of sugar. Bring the juice back up to a boil, stirring often, until a candy thermometer reads 210 F.

Pour into sterilized mason jars and add a cinnamon stick if you like. Seal the jars and process in a hot water bath or let cool and store the jars in the fridge.

 

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